Report finds that many arts organisations lack the expertise or resources needed to meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010.

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Evidence and research about equality and diversity across the arts and cultural sector has been published in a new report that establishes a baseline of data being used by Arts Council England (ACE) in policy-making, funding decisions, as a resource for the arts and cultural sector and as a catalyst for further research. Compiled from existing data, published reports and papers dating back to 1993, it offers “a snapshot of current trends and challenges” relating to audiences, arts participation, the cultural workforce and access to finance. The report finds that, despite their commitment, many arts and cultural organisations “don’t have the expertise or resources needed to design and implement effective approaches to ensure that they are able to meet obligations outlined in the Equality Act 2010.” 

The research was commissioned by ACE from Consilium research and consultancy in December last year, to inform its funding decisions relating to its National Portfolio. As well as identifying challenges unique to the cultural sector, it explores broader social trends that are affecting the sector’s ability to make progress on widening diversity. A wide range of issues are listed revealing the nature and extent of the equality gap that needs to be bridged.

Disabled employees and disabled-led organisations are under-represented among 2012–15 Arts Council England National portfolio organisations and “one of the challenges for arts sector organisations is to understand that the support needs of people with disabilities in their workforce can vary substantially”. The proportion of artistic staff across arts organisations that are disabled is at 1.8% or lower, and is especially low within the music and visual arts sectors. The report notes that “continued efforts are required to raise the profile of disability art and provide opportunities for artistic production by disabled artists”.

Regarding ethnicity, since 2005/06 the gap in arts engagement between Black and minority ethnic people and white people has widened because of higher engagement among white people, while engagement among the Black and minority ethnic community remained static. As for employment, while 12.3% of staff and managers across ACE’s NPOs are from a Black and minority ethnic background, the figure is less than 10% for managers, and the report notes: “Although organisations may seek out a more diverse pool of candidates and may be successful in their recruitment, they may fail to recognise that the organisation needs to change and support the person more effectively if they are to be successful and progress further in their careers.” Furthermore, Black and minority ethnic-led organisations are more dependent on their ACE funding, which represents 41.3% of their combined turnover – nearly double that of the average for all NPOs. This is attributed to their organisational size, which is generally smaller, and the challenges they can face in attracting income from other public funders and earned-income.

Females working within the creative and cultural industries indicate a range of factors that have hindered their progression, including a lack of permanently funded jobs, a lack of line management support, caring responsibilities and poor job opportunities. Within the creative and cultural sectors, research suggests that many leaders do not take career breaks, have never had a major caring responsibility and have done little or no part-time work over the course of their career, confirming the challenge of attaining a family and career balance in the sector.

Rather than point to any single pressing issue, the report insists it is important to “avoid a static, one-dimensional view of inequality” and highlights the “inter-related nature of influences, drivers, motivations and barriers to facilitating the participation and engagement of protected groups across the breadth of the arts and cultural sector offer”. Recognising that “many of the identified practical barriers, psychological barriers and institutional barriers are beyond the direct control of the arts and cultural sector”, it nonetheless concludes that “there are actions that both Arts Council England and the sector can take to lessen these barriers and make an impact”.

Liz Hill